about me, i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, this is life

Two Hundred Pesos

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Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. If you’re buying an expensive 2 million automobile, it’s quite worthless; but when you’re starving and looking to feed your family, two hundred pesos is a decent meal on the table. And really, life is all about perspective. It’s about seeing things in a positive light.

In our first site in Mindanao, we served a cluster of barangays, and as much as 700 people came. When hordes of people are rushing in, it’s quite easy for the team to get lost in the panic. When the queue of people don’t seem to thin, human nature sets in and the heaviness will settle. As a dentist in the field, the pain starts on my neck and back. Almost permanently hunched back to look into people’s mouths, the pain can be quite excruciating and uncomfortable as the day progresses. Hunger and exhaustion will soon manifest as a fairly limiting headache—and you see yourself checking the time and the number of patients that still need to be served. And often times I hear myself faintly cry out, “Oh Lord,” even more so when I am being overwhelmed by a difficult case. Almost instantly, I get the strength I need to finish the work, and of course I know it is no longer my own effort but the Lord’s.

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But then it’s not easy being a patient in a Medical Mission, either. Desperate and hopeful, you come in as early as you can, in order to register your name. And after getting your name in, you go through the process. In a Team Jesus Mission, you go through the following steps:

Step 1: Registration

Step 2: Vital Signs

Step 3: Counselling

Step 4: Medical, Dental, Optical, Circumcision

Step 5: Pharmacy

You go through the tedious process when the truth is that everyone just wants to go straight to Step 4, and the volunteers would rather be at the comfort of their homes. Fortunately, that is not God’s design. It’s not easy to understand why we travel so far, but when the burden to serve is placed in your heart by the Lord, you will answer the call.

“For many are called, but a few are chosen”

Matthew 22:14

And while many are called to serve, only a few people will actually do it. Because why would you take time off work and travel far? Why would you close your clinic for a while, and tell your patients to wait so you can go up to the mountains? It’s not easy to explain why we do this, but you just have to know that it’s clear in my heart that this is what I have to do. It is clear in every volunteer’s heart… and so we go to the field to serve. Not a lot of people get this, but sometimes someone does.

I Want to Help You

In our first site in Mindanao, amidst the crowd of patients, our Pastor found herself counselling a woman. She was quite enthusiastic and a little overeager, so it didn’t help that our Pastor was already feeling quite tired for the day. When you’re speaking to a large group of people you only hope that they are listening and not merely hearing your voice. Otherwise you’re only making noise and the word will fall on deaf ears. Our pastor continued to talk to the group and she remembers seeing the woman as she preached, and hearing her exclaim “Amen”, in almost automatic repetition. Her curiosity immediately grew, “Who is this woman?” she thought to herself.

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When the session ended, the crowd started to move out of the room, but the woman stayed. As soon as everyone had left, she approached our pastor and she said, “Nakakatuwa ang ginagawa nyo” (Your work makes me happy). She continued, “Gusto kong tumulong pero wala akong pera.” (I want to help, but I don’t have much money). Completely moved by her spirit, our Pastor smiled reassuringly and said, “Madaming paraan para tumulong. Pwede mo kaming ipagdasal. Ipagdasal mo kami para maipagpatuloy naming ang gawain ng Panginoon”. (There are many ways for you to help. You can pray for us. You can pray for us so that we could continue with God’s work). Volunteerism come in three forms: some work, some give, some pray. And so our Pastor told her not to worry if she has nothing to give, because her prayers will be worth so much.

Just then, she took two hundred pesos from her pocket and handed it over, “Ito lang ang meron ako, pero gusto ko tumulong sa inyo”. (This is all I have but I really want to help you). And she left with the promise to pray for the team.

Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. And that gesture of generosity and grace is worth more than what it can actually afford—a box of gloves, two packs of cotton balls, or two bottles of alcohol? Many wonder where we get our medicines from, but just like the old woman, there are people who believe in the importance of God’s work to reach the last, the least and the lost, so they share whatever they can so we can buy medicines. And sometimes, supplies arrive in boxes without us asking—it’s quite overwhelming.

Team Jesus functions entirely by FAITH. As a matter of fact, before the Mindanao Mission, I was severely short of dental supplies and one by one it got filled up until all I lacked were two boxes of gloves. Anyway, a friend saw my IG post and sent me exactly what we needed. Another friend saw it, but I told her it’s already been filled, so she offered to give 100 bags with school supplies for the kids, instead.

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Two hundred pesos is not so much but sometimes it’s all about perspective. After our second day we ran out of some things and that donation went towards the replenishment of some dental and surgical supplies. So we might not see that old woman again, but her spirit will remain with us, always.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6: 19-21

You see, it’s not easy to be a patient in a Medical Mission. Some people wait for hours for the chance to receive free care, and it isn’t so much what we are able to give in the field. But they wait patiently to be served and to receive free care, because money that you can save from free dental and medical, is money that can go towards a few decent meals. So when a patient turns to you and says, “Please take my money, I want to help you.” You receive it with sincere gratitude, because that’s grace from God.

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about me, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, in my opinion, my country: the philippines, my travels

Politicians and the Campaign Season

I went on a brief vacation to Mindanao last month, and I was lucky enough to be asked to tag along on three missions while I was there. My team has taken a brief hiatus, and I have been missing the field. So imagine my delight when I was asked to serve…

The thing about being “invited to missions” is that you sort of become a part of the purpose they wish to serve–whatever it is. But it’s okay, I always tell myself that I’m there for the people–not for the organizers.

Continue reading “Politicians and the Campaign Season”

i am a christian, in my opinion, love and relationships, stories of friends, this is life

The Haunting of Hill House and the “Poppy” in Our Heads

Spoiler Alert: Please be warned. This is heavy on spoiler details, so stop now. But really, go on. This is not a series review—it’s more of a reflection paper, so carry on. Haha. Are you confused now?

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image from here

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

-Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Continue reading “The Haunting of Hill House and the “Poppy” in Our Heads”

about me, i am a christian, in my opinion, this is life

Stop. Look. Listen.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

James 1: 19-20

My family call me hysterical. I remember my Papa scolding me for always raising my voice and throwing a tantrum in the middle of an argument.

Continue reading “Stop. Look. Listen.”

my poetry

The Cake Is A Gift

Cake on the table. A gift. Delicious.
But not for me.
A tiny box. Perhaps jewelry.
Pretty.

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Gifts are a great thing but never when the gift is not yours.

A set of jackpot lottery numbers when you didn’t even play. So that means you’re losing even before you realize that you’ve won.

My friend got a blue ribbon and it was pretty. She didn’t like it so she gave it to me.
I’m always the fourth kid in the family and all my clothes are hand-me-down and outdated. Thread worn but “fits you perfectly”, they say so you smile, however jaded.

Cake on the table. A gift. Delicious.
A lost soul is given a crown because of a gift so marvelous.
Your counterfeit merchandise is green and gold. Your favorite color.
Cake on the the table. A gift. Not yours.

about me, my travels

Surviving A Roadtrip to Mindanao

“As in drive?” Everyone thought it was wild that I was going on a roadtrip to Mindanao, but almost a week after my trip–here I am, alive and writing about it. It was an amazing experience. Weeks before this trip, I was fantasizing about going on one after watching “Expedition Happiness” on Netflix–and suddenly I found myself on a mini-roadtrip. I say mini because theirs took them from Canada to Mexico. Hahaha. Anyway, I love going on this roadtrip but I would think it’s not for everyone.

It’s physically taxing, first of all, so if you think it’s all fun–then you’re absolutely mistaken. But it’s not an impossible feat. As long as you’re willing and able, you can survive the roadtrip too! I mean, I did, so should you.

Yes this is me surviving the roadtrip. Hitting the final destination–Cotabato. Where I took a plane back to Manila.

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i am a christian, i am a dentist, i am a mission dentist, this is life

But Who Will Hug Them?

“Hugs can do great amounts of good – especially for children.”

Princess Diana

A week ago my team served the teenagers in Manila Youth Rehabilitation Center (MYRC). Mostly boys, we served almost 200 youth between the ages of 15-17, and for the first time in my life I was called “mie” (mommy). When I asked why they call everyone mommy and daddy, they said “Nasanay na po.” They’ve gotten used to it because they are asked to call elders and staff, mommy and daddy. Some of the teens have to reside in the center for years… and during that time MYRC is their home. And the “labels” create some semblance of a family, I suppose (that many of them no longer have).

Continue reading “But Who Will Hug Them?”